It's a little disconcerting that the last couple of years as I've been reading through my NY Times on-line, probably 90% of the news revolve around the number of casualties in Iraq (and who knows how many of their people have perished..in this country we'll never know), billion dollar mergers of corporations we have no idea of the people who run them, and the tidal wave of that sort of unfathomable greed influences the mindscapes of a new generation of kids, especially evident when a movie such as "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" opens no.1 at the domestic box office. Thus is the trend. Make shallow artistic endeavors pump them up with glitzy, saccharine, hormone filled packaging and voila...Lets cash in boys! The rich get richer and the poor stay poor with their children idolizing all the WRONG things. Utterly depressing...but I want to think that there still is hope. Hmmm...I often start with something shocking and like many other times, I've done it again. It most definitely grabs the attention, but when I don't really get to edit my writing as I'm pressed for time, it brings in too many tangents and ideas all at once. (As my one time creative writing Prof. commented that I was a word-slinger..) By the time most people write to make their point from point A to point B, I'm already swimming somewhere near the Galapagos Islands (?!!). Um...Exactly.
This post is actually a Top Ten list and I swear, I'll try my best from this point on to stay the course. Not that any of the above is not the truth that I've felt completely, but this is supposed to be a suggestive, happy post.
"My Top 10 Romantic Movies where the guy doesn't get the girl at the end, but everyone watching the movie wins, since your significant other for the first time gets to see that sensitive side of you...(or something like that)".
10. Heaven (2002) directed by Tom Tykwer, starring Cate Blanchett & Giovani Ribisi
A heart breakingly tragic screenplay by the late Krzysztof Kieslowski, who made the Red, White & Blue trilogy in the 90's, assemble love in the most unlikely of places and in desperate settings. Gorgeous pan shots by the emerging great, Tom Tykwer of the "Run Lola Run" fame knits sumptuous visions of Tuscany you will want to go visit and see for yourself one day... I think it's Cate Blanchett's best performance, but I have not yet seen "Notes on a Scandal"..
9. In the Mood for Love (2000) directed by Wong Kar-Wai, starring Maggie Cheung & Tony Leung
Set in the backdrops of 1960's Hong Kong, a tale of forbidden love between two spouses from two marriages, where a husband pretty much lives alone in an apartment because his wife's away, and next door a wife lives alone because her husband works abroad. Warning: if you like the pace of "fast & the furious", DO NOT watch this movie. It is a slow cooker. Wong Kar-Wai is a director of utter meticulousness, he is patient to make a movie that will unfold organically in front of your eyes and edits it with unparalleled flair. This is an Asian art house classic, and a study of passive aggressive love affair.
8. Rushmore (1998) directed by Wes Anderson, starring Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray & Olivia Williams
Wes Anderson, the X-generation auteur who made "the Royal Tenenbaums", displays his sophomoric effort with such charm and wit, you'll find yourself laughing from beginning to end. A coming of age tale and a love triangle which builds the story around a prep school and its playaz, about an extraordinary youngster talent of a playwright, the movie in itself is worth watching just for those scenes from the plays by Max Fischer. (this one's for you..our very own Fisha!)
7. Love Me if You Dare (Origianlly-Jeux d'Enfants, 2003) directed by Yann Samuell, starring Guillaume Canet & Marion Cotillard
I wanted to include a French flick in this mix and I don't know why I didn't go with "Amelie". Well...I know why. It's an awesome movie. There's no doubt about that. Jean-Pierre Juenet is my hero, but the theme today was unrequited loves and its near boundaries, and in "Amelie", she GETS the boy.. So not that "Love me if you Dare"(What an idiotic English title.. it doesn't do the movie any justice) is just a lesser substitute & I beg your pardon to all you ladies who state "Amelie" as one of your favorite romantic movies of all time.. The subtle difference is in the spices that culminate an entirely different dish at the end. This one is fast paced, bright colors, and about the sort of best friends who try to be lovers for years but fail, in the vain of "When Harry met Sally", but a more youthful take on that subject and is a complete delight. Oh yeah, and it's freakin' hilarious.
6. The Scandal (2003) directed by Je-Yong Lee, starring Mi-suk Lee, Do-yeon Jeon & Yong-jun Bae
This one probably for me would be the wild card on this essential list, because I love this movie and I wonder how many people out there who are not Koreans, have seen this brilliant adaptation of "Dangerous Liaisons"... And it is adapted into a period piece, with the vibrant colors of the old Korean costumes, all the way to its screenplay(such subtleties down to following the old manner of 19th century speech patterns...I know..if one's not Korean or know the culture intimately, one will never know, but trust me on this one..the care for detail is breath-taking). The trio of actors is unequivocally superb, and the art direction is to die for. There are steamy scenes, and they do exactly that, make you steamy. "Cruel Intentions" was an adaptation of the same novel, and yeah Reese Witherspoon didn't exactly win an Oscar for that performance..(how the &@%! did she win one anyways!!!)
5. Sex and Lucia (2001) directed by Julio Medem, starring Paz Vega, Tristan Ulloa & Najwa Nimri
Like his fellow Spaniard Pedro Almodovar, write/director Julio Medem also likes to work with strange circumstances, exotic coincidences & the powers of chance all tied into a situation that an everyday audience could grasp and relate to. Finding true love is hard to come by as everyone's been telling me my whole life, this story is gut wrenchingly beautiful one of true love, about finding it by chance, losing it, then living through the loss and how it changes people and their outlook on life. I like movies that tie in all the angles of love, that goes beyond the romantic love and explores the sides of paternal love, love between friends...even within the parameters of the fantastical, fictitious world of movies, it portrays a well rounded human experience. And talk about the full human experience, this one as the title suggests, has quite a bit of the steamy scenes in it. And to mention that those scenes are shot almost so candidly that it can make you really uncomfortable watching it with someone you've never been intimate with, but seriously, I want to argue that, if one does not get a chance to make love on a level that is at least equally as passionate, it would just be too sad.
4. Annie Hall (1977) directed by Woody Allen, starring Diane Keaton & Woody Allen
An American Classic from the moment it came out, it finally catapulted Woody Allen into the ranks of serious film makers, winning him 4 Oscars including best picture that year. I'll be honest, this and possibly 1999's "Sweet & Lowdown" are the two films of Woody Allen's that I can say that I enjoy. And the later doesn't star the director. But yes, as we all like to abuse the word "Genius" these days, as every other person on the street which your coat sleeve will brush up against probably already is one, Woody Allen has survived this fickle industry called the movie business with grit and style of a true American genius, a bit like a Mark Twain or a Truman Capote. Love can be verbose and he shows you how. Because he makes a mistake of letting her go the first time, so he rambles on some more, and the banter is just enough dose (at least I can take) of alacrity that it will steal your heart.
3. Limelight (1952) directed by Charlie Chaplin, starring Clair Bloom & Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin was king of the silent era, yet he still made movies well beyond his years of playing his signature tramp with the cane and the mustache. Limelight being one of his lasts and a movie that finally won him a coveted Oscar(are you kidding me?) is a story of a washed up, decrepit comedian who saves a young ballerina's life by chance, and the two fall in love at different times (and perhaps in different temperments of love) of each other, giving each other strength to rebuild their dreams and dignity. The movie is poignantly real in its portrayal and I bet a lot of you have not seen Chaplin in a speaking role, let alone a Chaplin film...To me, this movie will always be like a Schumann slow movement, whenever & wherever I hear it, the tears will well up.
2. Code 46 (2003) directed by Michael Winterbottom, starring Samantha Morton & Tim Robbins
A glimpse into the near future, the movie is about the biological dilemmas of cloning and the criterion that are set in order for people to safely mate & reproduce, and how its variations relate to meeting one's soul mate in the hooplah of all this. It's one of those movies that make science fiction a plausible reality and shot with real architecture around the world as its backdrop, beautifully constructed symmetry on every shot on screen with long curvatures of modern buildings spanning from Hong Kong to Dubai, to highlight what the future could very possibly look like 30 years from now. In my humble opinion, it is one of the most technically dazzling films of the last 10 years, not because of it's a Computer Generated Images kind of movie(which it has VERY little of and far from it), or a star powered chemistry of actors (It is a far cry from Brangelina's "Mr. & Mrs. Smith"...though Samantha Morton & Tim Robbins have a special chemistry), but because of its almost guerrilla film making style of shots blended with the carefully coordinated, and the marriage of the two create a kind of synergy that one can feel at a special concert, one of the smartest screenplays for this genre in years, and a soundtrack which I cannot stop listening to years after its first viewing. Oh and did I mention the love story? Really..it's the best part.
1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) directed by Michel Gondry, starring Kate Winslet & Jim Carrey
Movies for me is all about introducing new emotions and/or helping me remember familiar ones in ways where all the sensory elements are present and aware to capture us within the confines of a mostly 2 hour running time...and the really good ones achieve those goals with style, passion and bravura. Eternal Sunshine is on the top of the list as an epitome of this type. Script, direction, acting are just the spine of a movie, as elements that would need to be in place for it to be a good one for my taste, yet when those 3 elements merge in such unspeakable gravitation, where it carries that same kind of spontaneous energy that playing chamber music with a group of people who feel the phrase most similarly as you do, all other elements beyond this point fall into place...kinda like magic. God I love this story. The writing and the ideas are bound by nothing but originality, with the writer(Charlie Kaufman, who also wrote "Being John Malkovich") at the height of his powers, combined with virtuoso performances by the actors that play his characters, and a visionary who paints this heart breaking story into work of art by creating scenes that you remember in your dreams. If you're feeling pensive with your special someone, and want to watch something worthy of your precious time, you just can't go wrong with this bitter-sweet tale of attraction beyond science.
Well then, thanks for reading, happy viewing and keep supporting the Criers...